Virtual job fairs - and virtual events in general - have exploded in popularity in 2020. Of course, this is driven by the global shift to remote work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Companies worldwide have had to quickly pivot their job fair strategies online, meaning there has been a steep learning curve for many recruitment organizations and event planners.
Simultaneously, a huge range of virtual job fair platforms has entered the market, eager to fill the surging demand for online events.
So, if you’re starting in the virtual job fair world, the good news is that there is no shortage of platforms and resources to choose from. The bad news is that a wealth of options can lead to confusion about what is needed.
This article will serve as a guide to help you with hosting your first virtual job fair.
What is a virtual job fair?
A virtual job fair is, at a basic level, an online version of an in-person job fair. These virtual fairs, a key component of event recruitment, can take many forms and range in size from small online video gatherings to large scale virtual job shows.
Your virtual trade show's size and scope can vary depending on the platform you use, the frequency at which you host the event, and how many people you expect to attend.
Examples of virtual event formats that you can choose from include:
- Full, virtual trade show experiences
- Avatar walkthrough experiences of an event hall
- Interactive webinar sessions
- A combination of webinars, networking, and private chats
In the case of full virtual trade shows, these online events typically have all of the in-person event elements. It’s just online. This would include:
- Networking opportunities.
- Public and private chats
- Vendor and employer booths
- Speaker sessions
- Text or video calls
- Handouts and downloads
Like with in-person events, virtual job fairs require creative marketing to drive registrants and attendees. For online events, this will usually include a website or landing page, eBlasts (email campaigns), targeted advertising, and direct outreach via talent pipelines.
Whichever format you choose, virtual job fairs are a great way for companies or employment agencies to interact with candidates in a more in-depth and personal manner than email or social media.
Virtual job fairs: pros and cons
Here are some of the most significant pros and cons you should be aware of before deciding to plan a virtual job fair.
- They’re necessary in today’s remote-first world, and help organizations connect more directly with candidates.
- They remove geographic restrictions, allowing anyone in the world to attend from anywhere.
- They can be much more cost-effective than in-person events, and help eliminate expensive overhead costs like venue rentals, catering, and licensing.
- They eliminate travel expenses and the need to book extensive amounts of time to attend an in-person event.
- They empower businesses to network with and select candidates from a global talent pool, rather than relying on local applicants.
- Many platforms offer on-demand access after the live event, giving registrants complete flexibility in scheduling and the ability to access the content at any time.
- They’re easily repeatable. You can use the same virtual job fair template as frequently as you want while considering cost-per-registrant and promotional expenses.
- Virtual job fair platforms offer deep analytics into attendee behavior and engagement. These metrics can tie directly into your ATS database and candidate scoring tools.
- They move much faster than in-person events and enable faster candidate movement through the hiring pipeline. This can reduce your time-to-hire and cost-per-hire metrics.
- They’re a great way to showcase your employer brand by giving attendees a fully immersive experience that demonstrates your story, values, and culture.
- They help you engage with passive candidates by giving them an easily accessible, value-driven online experience that can be designed to pique their interest.
- There’s a lack of personal connection between attendees and recruiters that you can only get from an in-person event.
- It’s more difficult to develop and strong rapport with candidates over chat or video call. There can be a level of detachment from both parties due to the virtual barrier.
- Organizers can be overwhelmed by the turnout if more people attend than they initially expected. Too many people in a virtual job fair at the same time can mean that people don’t have their questions answered, or don’t feel that they connected personally with anyone at the organization.
- As a result, virtual job fairs can actually create a negative candidate experience. This is especially true if there are long wait times to talk to staff, or if recruiters are unresponsive to questions.
- They can be confusing and resource-intensive to set up if you’re new to this world. Virtual events require a combination of event planning, content strategy, IT, and demand generation. This can be a confusing world if you’re approaching it for the first time.
- Likewise, it can be confusing for attendees if they’ve never been to a virtual event before. You need to include user instructions in your content planning to ensure everyone knows how to use the platform.
To help you navigate this new world of virtual job fairs, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide that you can follow when creating your first event.
Key steps when hosting a virtual job fair
The following guide walks you through 12 key steps involved with hosting a virtual job fair. We encourage you to use this as a starting point for your project plan and populate it with any unique content or event features that you’re looking to include.
Let’s get started!
Plan the details
Assemble your virtual job fair project team. Together, determine when your event will occur, how long it will be, what time it will start, and what types of content and interactive experiences you’d like to offer.
Use these details to create the skeleton for your project plan. This will help you develop a work-back schedule to ensure that you’re giving yourself enough time to build out the event.
Pick your content
As a team, determine what your primary content offering will be for the event, and approach any support staff or external speakers, you’ll need to accomplish your goal. Ensure that they’re informed about the delivery format, timing, and topic for their presentation.
At the same time, you’ll need to think about what information your attendees will likely want to see at the event. What material do you want to make available for download? What booths or vendor rooms will be available? What will be included in each?
Create a full, end-to-end content strategy for your virtual job fair and add that to your project plan.
Set up the registration flow
If you’re hosting a public virtual job fair, you’ll likely need an event website or landing page, a registration form, and a confirmation email with calendar reminders.
These should be the first items to be checked off your project plan. Be sure to test your registration flow to ensure everything is working properly before releasing it to the world.
Promote your event
Once your registration flow is up and running, it’s time to start spreading the word about your virtual job fair. Because this is a virtual event, you’ll want to use mostly digital marketing tools to generate interest so that you can track where your leads are coming from.
This might include:
- eBlasts to your existing databases
- Social media posts
- Paid advertising
- Direct outreach to networks
- Adding a link to the event on your careers site
- Adding a link to the event on your job posts
- Direct outreach to passive and active talent pools
However, you promote your event; it’s important that you set up the proper tracking codes to ensure that you know where leads are coming from and which tactics are most effective.
Start filling in the event environment
As your promotion is happening, your event team should be building out the event environment. Remember that content plan you put together? Now is the time to start creating that content and populating your event platform.
Think through your CTAs
Virtual job fairs should have a clear next step for all candidates who attend.
Is your goal to encourage attendees to apply for specific jobs on your career site? Do you want them to contact your recruiters? Whatever your desired action is, be sure to include it as clickable graphics and text throughout your event.
Create a schedule for your team.
As the virtual job fair approaches, you’ll want to develop a booth rep schedule for any team member who will be working on the event. Ensure that you have at least two or three reps covering each booth and chat room throughout the day to ensure that you have enough help to answer all questions.
This is also a good time to schedule a training session for your reps to ensure that they know how to use the platform.
Remind people to attend
Just because someone fills out your registration form doesn’t mean they’ll remember to attend - or even want to - on the day of the event.
To help keep your job fair top-of-mind, send incremental reminder emails leading up to the event that tease something exciting that the registrant can expect. Use social media posts to drum up anticipation as well.
Before the event day, run through your entire virtual job fair with a small team. Test everything. This is particularly important for high visibility elements like webinar streams, chats, and video calls. Technical issues on the day of your event can ruin what would have been a great experience.
Once your event is live, keep your team aligned and executing on your communications plan. Encourage them to engage in 1:1 chats with candidates actively, and pivot your strategy and assignments to deal with volume or unforeseen issues.
Follow up with registrants and attendees
Congratulations! Your virtual job fair is done. But, there’s still some work to do. Make sure that you close the loop with your registrants and attendees by sending them a follow-up email or direct message.
If they attended, thank them for their time and explain what they should do next. If they didn’t attend, let them know that you’re still available to chat and that the event sessions are available on-demand (if they are).
Upload candidates to your ATS
Lastly, pull your attendee and registration reports from the virtual job fair platform and upload the data into your ATS. This will contain useful contact information and engagement metrics that you can use to inform your next steps.
What to look for in a virtual job fair platform
There are a number of must-have features that you’ll want to look for when choosing a virtual job fair platform. This is especially true if you’re looking to host a full virtual trade show.
Some of the biggest players on the market today include:
Each of the above offers different features and prices that you should explore when researching potential platforms.
In general, you’ll want to screen platforms to ensure they offer the following:
- Exhibitor or vendor booths
- Exhibition halls
- Downloadable content
- Live and on-demand streaming
- 1:1 chat capabilities (preferably on-camera)
- Multi-chat capabilities
- Group chats
- Mobile compatibility
- Custom branding
- Confirmation emails and event reminders
- Landing pages and event websites with pre-built templates
- Booth and person search capabilities
- Attendee tracking and engagement analytics
- Chat transcripts
- Integrated email marketing tools
- List import and export
The list above represents best-practice features that you’ll likely need to provide guests with the best user experience. They are also very helpful for event planners and make it much easier to create winning virtual events.
So, with all of these steps and considerations, you might be asking yourself: are virtual career fairs worth it? In our opinion, the shift to remote work has made virtual career fairs not only worth it, but an essential part of any recruitment organization’s strategic roadmap.
If you’re feeling a bit daunted, we recommend jumping in with both feet. Reach out to some vendors and schedule a demo. You’ll quickly realize that there’s a wealth of virtual event platforms on the market that are eager to help make your job fair a success.